Evan Carmichael, Entrepreneurship and Truth-seeking |393|


Evan Carmichael has channeled his success into a passion for helping entrepreneurs.

photo by: Skeptiko

Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Evan Carmichael to Skeptiko. Evan is a successful entrepreneur who’s channeled his own success into a passion for helping others succeed in reaching their potential. He’s created an enormously successful YouTube channel and two excellent books. I really enjoy, Your One Word: The Powerful Secret of Creating a Business and Life That Matter and The Top 10 Rules for Success.

Evan, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks for joining me.

Evan Carmichael: Thanks a lot Alex, and that voice, man, I should have had you do my audio book. That’s something special.

Alex Tsakiris: Really? I just drank a smoothie, maybe that’s it.

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, keep it. Yeah, keep the smoothie.

Alex Tsakiris: So, you were just joking a minute ago, Skeptiko is generally a show about consciousness science… these “who we are, why are we here” big picture stuff, but in some ways that’s really just a cover story because what I’m really interested in is truth-seeking and truth-seekers and I think there’s a wonderful overlap with the stuff you’ve done about believing and about entrepreneurship. I was wondering if we could talk about that connection. So, right off the bat, do you see a connection between truth-seeking and this believing/entrepreneurship/reaching your full potential?

Evan Carmichael: Yeah. I think everybody has Michael Jordan level talent at something, but we just done, one, realize what it is, we don’t try enough stuff, or two, we don’t believe in ourselves to go after it. I think the question of human potential is the world’s biggest problem. I think something like cancer should have been solved already. I think the woman who solves cancer is an accountant right now and hates her life, but she either, one, never tried biology, never got interested in it, never got the opportunity or she went after it but then it seemed to risky, it was a safe bet, somebody talked her down from it and she took the safer path to go and be an accountant.

So, I think that’s everybody. I think Michael Jordan is just as talented as everybody else. I think we all have that ability inside of us and so that’s the path that I’m on, is trying to help people uncover that. Whether they become an entrepreneur or something totally different, that’s okay, but I think everybody has a well, a deep well of talent inside them and are meant for greatness.

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Alex Tsakiris: Awesome. I don’t know if that really gets at the truth seeking thing, but that was so beautiful, I think we should leave that where it is and talk about, I enjoyed Your One Word book a lot and one of the big takeaways for me was, if I was going to put it in one word, I’d put it as clarity. Do you want to talk a little bit about the power of clarity, the power of that, being able to refine things in that way?

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, and I see clarity and truth seeking to be very similar, they’re kissing cousins. The truth seeking that I see and the clarity I see is in helping you, or helping the readers figure out what it is that they stand for. I think everybody has a single most important core value, I call it Your One Word, that when I understand what you stand for, then it’s a lot easier to navigate the rest of your life. It’s like you’re standing on a rock that is unshakable and everybody else is standing on quick sand.

So, if you don’t know what you stand for, then it’s easy to fall prey to other people’s opinions and expectations and judgments. Your friends want you to do something, your parents want you to do something, your colleagues want you to do something, and you have a hard time fighting back because you don’t know what you want.

So, before even figuring out the actions that you need to take, I think it starts with the core values that you have and every company in America has their list of their 13 core values that they say they stand for, but nobody in the company knows what they are. But it’s a super important process, when you figure out what your most important one word is, your core value and that allows you then to bring the people into your life who believe the same things you believe, it allows you to stand up for what you feel is right and plant your flag in the ground, and the clarity that that gives you, then allows you to go off with confidence, chasing what you have Michael Jordan level talent at.

Alex Tsakiris: Sounds good from where you’re sitting right now, but one of the things I appreciate about your books is the stories you tell. You’re a very good storyteller and you tell some stories about your challenges and overcoming those, because reaching that point of clarity is not an easy process. Do you want to share with people a little bit about some of those challenge you overcame and how, through that, you’re able to, kind of, reach clarity when there was no clarity, and that process a little bit?

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, and because I think everybody has a core value, it’s a human condition, regardless of if you’ve had success or not, from a financial perspective. There’s a lot of people who’ve made a lot of money who still don’t have any clarity over who they are and what they want.

The toughest part for me was when I had the opportunity to take the dream job that I wanted, working in an investment bank, I thought I wanted to be an investment banker versus being in a startup and making $300 a month but owning a piece of a company. I didn’t know at the time, I didn’t have my one word, I didn’t have belief, all I had, the filter I was using was regret. I didn’t want to live with regret, and I think that can be a really powerful tool to get that truth and to get that clarity as well.

If you imagine yourself being however long we’re going to live, if it’s 200 years old, by the time we get there, looking back on your life and saying, “Am I going to regret not doing this?” It’s very rarely the things that we do are that we regret, it’s more likely the things we don’t do that we regret. So, you have a window, you have an opportunity and that window’s going to close to do something in the near future that can help you become something great and you either go for it and risk failure or you don’t, and then you spend the rest of your life wondering, “What if?”

I conditioned myself, after a failure when I was 18, that I could deal with the failure, I could deal with getting rejected, but I couldn’t deal with not knowing. So that forces action and the action allows you to get clarity and truth.

Alex Tsakiris: Cool and I love the way that you’ve brought, what some people would associate with negative aspects to it, because I similarly like to jump over to the other side and one of the taglines of this show is, “[00:06:49] to perpetuate doubt,” and a lot of people go, “Doubt? Oh man, doubt, that’s so negative.” It’s like, “No man, doubt is a beautiful thing. Doubt is openness. Doubt is climbing the next mountain to figure out what my truth really is.

So, do we want to play around, maybe, with a little bit about these ideas that sometimes your message can come across, to some folks, as Pollyanna, as all sunshine and rainbows and it’s not, I think, in some great ways. It’s, you’re facing a lot of the same challenges that everyone else has, the same doubts, the same fears, the same reluctance, and that, I think, is the truth seeking part to me, it’s maintaining both, it’s maintaining the doubt, maintaining the fear, maintaining all of those things, and at the same time finding a way to go forward that give you the best chance of finding your truth, finding your mission. Any thoughts on that?

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, there are two things that come to mind. First is, I believe that your purpose comes from your pain. I think that the greatest thing you end up doing in life comes from the most painful thing that you’ve gone through in life. So, I think pain is a huge enabler. I think, whatever it is, I look at like the woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving, why did she do that? Because her daughter was killed by a drunk driver and like, “I don’t want this to happen to any other child in America again,” so she started her foundation. Out of the most devastating thing of all time in this woman’s life came her greatest creation.

So, why do I love helping entrepreneurs? Because I struggled so much as an entrepreneur, because I felt like a worthless human being, because I didn’t know if I’d ever get out of it, I felt like I was working every day, really hard, and I was getting zero results and I just felt like, “I need to find a way to contribute something,” because everything I touched before that point kind of worked, if I put in effort it would work and here I was putting tons of effort in and not getting any results. So, just feeling super low on myself, I didn’t want to have other people have to go through that.

So, when you’ve been through some pain, I think humans are built to serve and you naturally just want to help other people not face the same pain that you faced.

So, I think the negative side becomes a huge enabler. I think doubt is fantastic. If you had certainty over everything, you would hate your life, it would be the most boring thing of all time. If you knew exactly how every day was going to go, you would hate your life.

There was something else that came to mind as you were talking. I lost it, I thought it was a good one.

Alex Tsakiris: I think you got some great stuff in there.

Evan Carmichael: Have we got something there? No, it was, there was something good. Okay, whatever, if it comes back, I’ll tell you.

Alex Tsakiris: Jump in there. Whenever it comes back, you tell me.

So, let’s talk a little bit about Steve Jobs. He is one of the guys you profiled, you admire for a lot of great reasons. I do too. You profiled him in The Top 10 Rules for Success. Let’s flip it around though. Jobs is also someone who, near the end of his life, has laments, has regrets, and he says, “Hey, maybe did I climb the ladder and then not look down and say, ‘What other things in my life do I need to balance?’” Then, he has, of course, his famous last words when he’s dying of, “Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!” Where he’s seeing something transcendent.

What is there about that fear that we have that, while we’re climbing that ladder of success, while we’re doing this stuff that we think is going to make us happy, do we have to keep in mind Steve Jobs’ other lesson, which is to, maybe reexamine fundamentally what you think your one word is, what you think your driving motivation is and say, “Hey, do I need to balance that with spending more time with my family, connecting with those that I love, doing other things?”

What do you make of that aspect of the Steve Jobs’ story?

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, so I like some things about Steve Jobs and for those of you listening, you can’t see my office. I’ve got a big giant picture of Steve Jobs close-up looking at me every single day as I walk in.

What I love to do is pull different things from different people. So, Steve Jobs, I love that he’s a pioneer, I love that he’s a visionary, I love that he’s not afraid to take risks. I don’t want to be a father like Steve Jobs was. I’ve also got pictures of my parents behind me, when I’m nine years old and they’re hovering over me, I want to be a father like my parents were parents to me.

So, I think with all of these people, figuring out, your goal is not to be the next anybody, your goal is to seek truth for yourself and figure out who you are, get clarity over who you are, and you can take little bits and pieces.

The idea of balance is super subjective. It’s great to have it in the back of your mind, to constantly think about, “What does balance look like for me?” Because it’s not going to look like the same thing for anybody else, if you’re really being honest with yourself.

I think about Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, the actor. He needs to workout for three to four hours every day. So, if he’s doing a movie and he has to be on set by seven, he’ll wake up at three and go and do his workout and then be on set and he’ll sleep five or less hours every day.

To me, that sounds ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous, like it’s the most unbalanced, ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of all time, but to him it’s balanced. So, I ask myself, “Who am I to judge how much somebody spends working out or with their wife or with their kids or on their business?” The most important things are, are you happy.

What I encourage people to do is, do your actions map to your ambitions? You say you want this in every area of your life, you say you want to be this kind of father and this kind of husband and this kind of entrepreneur and this kind of leader, whatever that looks like to you, this kind of dog owner, whatever, there’s no judgement, whatever you love, are your actions helping you accomplish that? Like, is what’s in your calendar helping you reach those goals or not? I think all of the idea of modern success, whether it’s Tony Robbins or Steve Jobs or whoever we end up looking at, it’s just extra little bits of context and also challenging your assumptions.

So, I think it’s a great question to ask yourself. You don’t have to be at the end of your life to then ask yourself that question. Seeing that Steve Jobs asked that, great it’s time for reflection. You know what, I’m not spending enough time with my family, or, maybe you’re not spending enough time with your businesses. Like, if you spend all day long with your family, you’d hate that too, you’d want to get out and do something, right?

So, figure out what balance looks like for you and then don’t judge anybody else’s perspective on it. They have their own version. If they’re living it, I’m happy.

Alex Tsakiris: Awesome, awesome, let me poke at that a little bit from another angle. I wonder, your background is similar to mine.

Evan Carmichael: Okay.

Alex Tsakiris: Entrepreneurship, had a high-tech company, sold it, retired, wanted to explore and really one of the things I want to do is explore these, kind of, bigger picture issues, in terms of science and consciousness.

Switching back to my entrepreneur mode, is there an aspect of entrepreneurship, of the success, money seeking part, that isn’t compatible with truth seeking and more broadly, the stuff that you’re talking about? Because what you’re talking about is finding that inner truth for your life. Are there times when they do have to be out of balance? I mean, making money is not all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes you have to do what you have to do and that can be tough and there are compromises to be made? How do you advise your entrepreneurs in that aspect of it, that it is going to come down to tough decisions? You will be forced to choose, we might not like the word compromise, but we will be forced to choose what side we’re going to go on to get what we want, if you know what I mean, without being too brutal.

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, listen, I love brutal, it’s great. I appreciate the questions. It is complicated and now other people are the dynamic, and your wife. They have their own views and own opinions and own way that she wants to spend her time or, if you have a business partner, what do they want to do? It’s complicated enough as a solo person, forget about now we’ve got to bring other people into the mix and have all of us be imbalanced together.

The way that I do it is…

Alex Tsakiris: Let me make sure we’re talking about the same thing. I’m saying the money’s on the table and you have to do what you have to do to grab that money and sometimes that’s not always going to be completely consistent with all of your values but you are going to have to make that decision at some point and a lot of us sometimes will say, “You know what? I have to grab that money right now, because that’s what I need right now.” That’s a real part of entrepreneurship, that, I guess I wish more people would talk about openly. For example, this guy’s a fundamentalist Christian, he wants to talk about that all of the time. I don’t need to jump up in his face and talk about how my views might be different than his. This isn’t the time; the time is to take the opportunity to shut up and get paid.

Evan Carmichael: Yeah, I think the more you can filter your decisions through the lens of, “Can I live with myself?” Like, if I was totally broke and, on the street, and I had no way to make money and I’m starving, I’m going to steal something from the shopping cart to eat. Like, I’m going to go to the grocery store and I’ll try to sneak something because I’m starving, I’ve got no other path. I would do that, and I don’t feel great about it, but I need to eat.

Now, would I kill somebody for something? Probably not. I would probably starve to death before I killed somebody. But, can you live with yourself? That’s the lens. Like, I’ve left tons of money on the table in the past because I didn’t want to feel like I was screwing somebody over, and that’s the filter, that’s what my parents taught me, that’s a filter that I run my decisions through. Like, I would rather go home and sleep on my parents’ couch than screw somebody over in a business deal. I can live with that. Maybe you can’t, or somebody listening. Maybe your decision is like, “No, I have a commitment to my family, I’m not going to have them go and sleep on my parents’ couch or somebody in my community. So, it’s worth it, you know what? It’s worth screwing that person over because business is tough, and they’ll deal with it, because I need to feed my family. As long as you’re happy with it. I think the thing that kills people is the regret, like you’re wishing for something different, you feel bad that you screwed that person over and yes, you have an extra 100 or 100k or whatever it is in your bank account, but can you live with yourself, for the rest of your life, having made that decision?

So, I don’t judge you. Like, if you had to kill your way to get out of jail in some foreign country and you made it back home, like okay, as long as you’re happy with yourself. I’m not judging you, you can do any decision. I think the harshest judgement is on ourselves. We just the actions taken and not taken.

So, if you could try to gain a little perspective and say, “I’m in this tight situation, I want to live this kind of life though, stepping up from, like, not my immediate moment but like, lifetime, what I want to try to do, and I going to be happy with this moment?” Can you tell your kids that, “I stole from that grocery store to get my apple because I was hungry”? Like, I would do it. This is the reality, this is where I was at.

But I feel so bad about screwing somebody over, I would rather sleep on my parents’ couch forever than do that and it’s not that I’m right and somebody else is wrong, it’s just, what moral code can you live with?

Alex Tsakiris: I hear you. I think the worst thing that we all see is the guy who, maybe, stole the apple from the shopping cart and now has a $2000 custom suit and he’s still getting off on the vibe of stealing that apple because he’s addicted to that excitement. That’s what I see more in the problem that lies in that.

But, let me switch more because we’re running out of your time and I appreciate you doing this, it’s fun, I know we’re pulling into some stuff that you don’t normally talk about.

Evan Carmichael: This is the best. I love it.

Alex Tsakiris: Great. So, in The Top 10 Rules for Success, you offer a really excellent poster, kind of a, super condensed down, top 10, run right through them, and I won’t do them right here but I encourage anyone, it’s one page, you’ll read it in five minutes and you’ll definitely get something out of that, you’ll go, “Wow, that’s right on. I need to remember that.”

Number two, have self-awareness. I think that’s so fantastic, in the way that you say it, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, but I think it’s broader than that. Let’s spend the last few minutes we have talking about self-awareness. We already have in some ways, but what would you add to that one?

Evan Carmichael: So, I think self-awareness starts with figuring out your core value, one word. I think that’s a foundational exercise as a human being, forget about entrepreneur or not.

Then it’s, “Okay, I know my one word is believe, awesome. I could believe in anything, like, what am I going to do next?”

So, the next is, your purpose comes from your pain. “Okay, I want to believe in entrepreneurs because my path was so difficult as an entrepreneur, I want to help out other entrepreneurs.” Great.

Then, “Okay, I believe in entrepreneurs. Now what? What do I do? What are my actions? What are my next steps?”

Then it’s, actually testing out a whole bunch of stuff. If you have no idea, then you say yes to everything. You can’t say that pizza’s your favorite food if you haven’t tried sushi and burritos and a bunch of other stuff. So, you say yes to everything until you find the thing that you want to go back to again. Not the thing that you need to marry yet, but just go back on a second date.

So, “I believe in entrepreneurs, great. How am I going to do it? I could do workshops, I could do books, I could do gear, I could be a thought leader, I could have a YouTube channel, I could do a website.” Like, you try everything until you get to the thing that you want to go back to again and again and again and again, where you’re enjoying the process, not just attached to the results.

And quickly, I remember the thing that I wanted to say before.

Alex Tsakiris: Go.

Evan Carmichael: Which was, I agree with you about life is not sunshine and rainbows and there’s a lot of negativity in the world. There’s a lot of reasons why a lot of people won’t succeed, and I think there’s more reasons why people won’t succeed than will succeed. I think a lot of the world is rigged to keep you where you are instead of going out and changing it. There’s more people want to protect the status quo than fight against it.

What I try to do is, if there’s a million reasons why something’s not going to work, and eight why it will, I only focus on the eight. Like, I spend my life in the positive, in the eight reasons, knowing that the odds are against me, but I get to choose to focus on those eight things that can help me get to where I want to go, instead of what most people do is just focus on the million reasons why you can’t win.

So, I acknowledge that those million reasons are there, I just try not to live in that world, because there’s still a path. It may be a tiny path, but that’s all I’ll focus my energy on.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s awesome. That’s absolutely awesome and I love what you’re saying.

Let me slip in one more. A lot of this stuff that we’ve gotten into on this show is about spirituality, is about finding that much deeper awareness of who we are that is transcendent of a lot of this.

Now, the reason I totally am aligned with what you’re saying is, I have a little voice inside of my head that says, “You have to be somebody before you can be nobody,” but I think that’s an important transition too. Success is about being somebody. Spirituality is about, maybe, accepting that if we’re not nobody, if that’s too much, we’re at least a much smaller part of a much bigger, bigger thing and we have to accept that as well.

Do you have any thoughts, in general, about how your journey might lead you towards a larger spirituality, a larger, “Oh wow!” moment, like Steve Jobs had at his deathbed?

Evan Carmichael: That’s a great question and I don’t have lots of time to think about it. No, I love it. So, for me, if I thought of something like that, I would do it. As soon as I get an idea, or something hits my consciousness, I start acting on it. As soon as I have the awareness of it. It may brew in there for years before I catch it, but as soon as I catch it, I just have to do it. I don’t think people should have ten-year goals, I think if you know what you think you can be in ten years, you’re thinking small. So, it’s like a lifetime goal and then what I’m doing right now, and that’s it.

I think that I am someone really special and nobody at the same time. I don’t see it as like one, then becoming the other, I feel like I’m both. I know that my impact is incredible. I know that when I meet people one on one, I can see that I’ve moved them. I can look at my YouTube comments and know that the thing that I did is having meaningful impact on people’s lives. Some people have not killed themselves because of me. I know that I did that, and it wouldn’t be possible for somebody else to do it.

At the same time, I know that I’m nobody. Like, in the grand scheme of things, I’m nobody and I’m chasing a mission that is never going to be solved. The problem I’m attacking will never be solved. It’s the emptying the ocean every day with a spoon, that’s what I’m doing.

So, I don’t know if that’s just because I’m a weird duck and I think in really crazy ways, but lifetime mission and short-term goals and nothing in between and I’m insanely important and I’m nothing. Like, I’m my own biggest fan and the worst critic at the same time. So, maybe living in both worlds makes me a little nutso, maybe the path is better to think you become somebody than nothing, but that’s just the way I think about it from the question.

Alex Tsakiris: Awesome.

Our guest again, Evan Carmichael. Check out Your One Word and The Top 10 Rules For Success. You’ll find them on YouTube, you’ll find them everywhere. He’s super popular and he deserves to be, as you’ve just heard.

Evan, awesome having you on. Thanks so much.

Evan Carmichael: Thanks for the love Alex, it’s been fun.


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